Online academic integrity tutorial protects students’ investment in their education

January 15, 2020 | Campus Life


If you’ve ever wondered “do I need to cite this?” when writing a paper or had a niggling feeling of concern while collaborating with classmates or writing an exam, you may be interested in taking a little time to learn about academic integrity. Many students who violate MacEwan University’s academic integrity policy don’t even realize what they’ve done.

Dr. Paul Sopcak, coordinator of student conduct, community standards and values, says that roughly half of all reported incidents at MacEwan have nothing to do with dishonesty or ethical misconduct. “Rather, it’s their lack of skill and knowledge about academic integrity, and some students’ negligence to fill that gap.”

An online tutorial designed for students to take when they begin their program at MacEwan, says Paul, seemed to be the perfect way to address the knowledge and skills gap regarding academic integrity.

Since the idea for the tutorial first floated around in 2013, it has evolved from an online assignment that is part of the mandatory Academic Integrity Ethics and Skills Workshop for repeat offenders.

(Due to increased availability of services from the Writing Centre, mandatory training for all new international students, and training for faculty members in restorative practices, academic misconduct incidents went down by almost 10 per cent overall from the 2017/18 academic year to 2018/19, and down by over 21 per cent for international students.)

“Because more than half of all reported academic misconduct incidents are plagiarism cases, assigning the APA tutorial was a step in the right direction,” Paul says. “But the plan to develop a designated AI tutorial kept resurfacing in conversations with SAMU executives, the university’s student ombudsperson, MacEwan International and faculty adjudicators.”

DocumentAlert_IconIllio_150x2005 questions you didn’t know you had about academic integrity


“Academic integrity not only means dealing honestly in all your academic work, it also has to do with taking responsibility to gain the necessary skills and knowledge to avoid unintentional misconduct.”

Read more

Paul worked with staff in the Writing Centre and eLearning Office to develop an academic integrity tutorial. Then Dr. Kristin Rodier, instructional designer in the Writing Centre, continued its development, adding new content and examples. She then collaborated with faculty members in the School of Business to pilot an early version, revising the tutorial based on feedback from the pilot study.

Case study collaboration with business professors

Kristin worked with Dr. Lyle Benson, Dr. Rickard Enstroem and Dr. Evandro Bocatto (all associate professors in the School of Business) to design a test for business students to take before and after completing the tutorial. They asked questions to determine if and what students learned from it, and the co-authored case study that resulted from their research is intended to help others at similar post-secondary institutions in Canada design and implement their own academic integrity tutorials.

But their work isn’t done yet. “The question of whether behaviours change is the subject for future papers,” Kristin says.

Kristin’s collaboration with the business professors has also contributed to the tutorial now being mandatory in the School of Business and a required curriculum assignment in many MacEwan programs. This past Fall semester saw over 1,400 students take the tutorial in courses across the university.

Interested in taking the tutorial?

Anyone on Blackboard can enroll in the Academic Integrity Tutorial. Depending on how familiar you are with academic integrity, the tutorial takes between one and two hours. Complete the quizzes to receive a certificate of completion.

“Students should take the course if they are interested in learning the values behind academic integrity and to gather resources for their studies,” says Kristin. “They will benefit because it saves a lot of time and effort when the academic misconduct is unintentional or is a result of a lack of knowledge.”

Paul also encourages students to complete the tutorial. Doing so protects yourself and your future academic credentials.

“Students who engage in academic misconduct undermine not just their own integrity, but also the integrity and thus the reputation of the institution,” says Paul. “Their degree is only worth as much as the institution’s reputation.”

More information is available on the academic integrity website.

Get MacEwan University news delivered to your inbox.
Sign up for our weekly e-newsletter